Constitutional Law II: Law and the Theory of Equal Protection

Section 1, Fall 15

Schedule Information

Enrollment: 10/44
Credits: 3

Course Description

This course will provide an in-depth look at the case law and theory of the Equal Protection Clause. Beginning with the observation that laws and policies routinely draw distinctions among people (e.g., you have to be 16 or older to drive), the course will attempt to find and evaluate the theory of Equal Protection that underlies Equal Protection doctrine. The course will address this question from both a normative and a descriptive perspective. We will ask what value or combination of values best justifies our Equal Protection doctrine? Among the possibilities we will discuss are rationality, equality and liberty. For example, both rationality review and the heightened scrutiny requirement that a classification be “narrowly tailored” or “substantially related” to a governmental interest insist that laws that classify do so rationally. Is irrationality then the normative heart of an equal protection violation? Alternatively, the text of the Clause, as well as its history, suggests that equality is the value that animates it. Much Equal Protection case law surely supports this view. Finally, some scholars argue instead that the Equal Protection of the laws is best conceived as a guarantee that all persons have those rights that enable them to develop their abilities and participate as citizens in our society. This vision, which finds support in the Fundamental Interests strand of Equal Protection doctrine, sees liberty, or its close cousin autonomy, as the foundational value. The class will include both theoretical material (largely drawn from law review articles) and cases. 

Course Requirements

Exam Info:
Midterm Type (if any):
Description: None

Final Type (if any):

Written Work Product
Written Work Product:

Other Work
<span style="font-size:small;">Students will be evaluated on a take-home and word-limited examination distributed in a sealed envelope on the last day of class. Students will be on their honor to complete their answers to the exam during the time stated upon opening the envelope, and uploading their answers to LawWeb shortly thereafter. The deadline for uploading exam answers will be 4:30 pm (EST) on the last day of the Fall examination period. Final grade will be based on a take-home exam (75%) and on class participation (25%). </span>

Other Course Details
Prerequisites: Constitutional Law Concurrencies: None
Mutually Exclusive With:
Laptops Allowed: Yes
First Day Attendance Required: No
Course Notes:

Graduation Requirements

*Satisfies Writing Requirement: No
**Credits For Prof. Skills Requirement: No
Satisfies Professional Ethics: No

*Yes means professor requires everyone in the course to submit a substantial research paper (which is the requirement standard in Academic Policies), so no paperwork required to be submitted to SRO. No means student must timely submit paperwork to SRO if intending to use a paper in this course to satisfy the Writing Requirement.

**Yes indicates course credits count towards UVA Law’s Prof. Skills graduation requirement, not necessarily a skills requirements for any particular state bar.

General Information

Schedule No.
Law No.
Modified Type
Cross Listed: No
Cross-Listed Course Mnemonic:
Concentrations: Constitutional Law
Public Syllabus Link: None
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Opens:
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Closes: